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  • Seriously Emotionally Disturbed:

    Guidelines for Determining Eligibility


    " .

    Maryland School Psychologists' Association

  • "

    Ad Hoc Committee Heather Albrecht"', Prince George's County, Chair William Flook, Anne Arundel County Marion Salvagno, Charles County Joyce Simmons, Calvert County Sharon Woodman, Charles County

    Maryland School Psychologists' Association Baltimore, MD . 1988.

  • iii Introduction

    Clarification of the definition of "Seriously emotionally disturbed" (SED) has been

    an issue of increasing concern in recent years to school psychologists across the country.

    That concern surfaced clearly in Maryland during the Fall of 1985 when Jane Slenkovich,

    nationally known attorney, spoke at the Maryland School Psychologists' Association

    (MSP A) Fall Conference on "The SED Child - Legal Guidelines for Determining

    Eligibility." The membership responded to that presentation in such an overwhelmingly

    positive fashion that the MSPA Board saw a mandate to work toward developing

    definitional clarity about the SED diagnosis.

    An SED Committee was subsequently formed within MSP A to work on refining the

    definition of SED. The State School Psychology Representatives had already been working

    on the problem, so when MSPA took on the task in the Spring of 1986, the Representatives

    supported the MSP A initiative and turned their drafted materials over to the SED

    Committee. Special Education at the State level was also supportive of the effort to clarify

    the SED definition.

    This project has -now been in process for approximately a year and a half. As the

    Committee gathered information from other states and from local education agencies

    (LEAs) within Maryland, it was determined that a Best Practices section should also be

    incorporated. Not only did we want to help clarify the definition of SED for the school

    psychologist, but we also wanted to provide a model of the most professional way to

    identify a child who might carry this very serious label.

    The references used for the definitional sections of this document came from

    various states, including Maryland (see bibliography). The procedural data collected to

    develop the Best Practices section came from a comprehensive survey (see appendix) sent

    out to the Maryland School Psychology Representatives in each LEA, and to a random

    sample of MPSA members from the six largest LEAs. The American Psychological

    Association's Standards for Providers of Psychological Services, and the National

    Association of School Psychologists' Professional Conduct Manual were also used to help

    formulate this best practices concept.

    In developing this document MSP A had several goals in mind. 'First, the Board

    wanted to respond to the expressed concerns of the membership regarding the SED

    -. diagnosis'. The definition of SED in the federal law is vague and open to varied . interpretations. The sections on Eligibility and Social Maladjustment in these proposed

    .. _guidelines were designed to make the definition of SED more functional and specific, and --- - to assist the school psychologist in the differential diagnosis of this condition.

    The second goal, addressed through the Best Practices section, was to provide a

    sound model for school psychologists evaluating a child suspected of being SED or

    -identified as SED. LEAs differ in their procedures for handling these childreri, but the

    school psychologist in all jurisdictions ip. Maryland is to be the qualified exaIl1iner. The _

    Best Practices section is designed to heighten awareness of the professional responsibility - inherent in the process of deciding whether a child meets the diagnos~k criteria for an SED label.

  • Finally, the goal of the overall project might best be described as an effort to increase I v communication. The SED diagnosis is made by a qualified examiner, but all professionals involved in addressing the suspected or labelled SED child need to have a functional concept of the SED profile. And, because of the seriousness of the SED diagnosis, all professionals involved in the various review steps for that child need to be aware of sound procedural practices.

    The Maryland School Psychologists' Association is committed to professional development. We would like these proposed guidelines to be of benefi t to all professional school personnel involved in working with the SED child.


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    to _

  • v

    Table of Contents

    Introduction III

    Acknowledgements vi

    I. Eligibility 1

    A. SED as an Emotional Condition 1

    B. SED as a Set of Three Limiting Criteria 1

    C. SED Characteristics 2

    D. Schizophrenia 6

    II. Social Maladjustment 7

    A. School! societal Variables 7

    B. Interpersonal Variables 8

    C. Emotional/intrapsychic Variables 8

    III. Best Practice: The Role of the School Psychologist with Seriously Emotionally Disturbed Children ____________ 11

    A. Consultation. _________________________ 11

    B. Evaluation Process _______________________ 11

    C. _Designing, Implementing, and Monitoring SED Programs________ 13

    IV. Bibliography________________________ 15

    V. Appendices

    B. MSPA Survey________________________ 19

  • VI Acknowledgements

    There are many people to whom the SED Committee owes gratitude. It is hard to know where to begin so, for the sake of organization, chronology will be the guidance. Thanks go first to the MSPA membership, which initially provided the impetus for this project. With the added support of the Maryland Representatives of School Psychologists, we began our work. Their Ad Hoc Committee Report on "Definitions and Guidelines for the Psychological Evaluation of Serious Emotional Disturbance" was our first working paper. We are indebted to the members of that committee, chaired by Phil Lauver of Garrett County. That membership included Neil Feehley, Baltimore County; Henry Groff, Frederick County; Bruce Johns, Montgomery County; Richard Mainzer and Phyllis . Sunshine, Maryland State Department of Education; Enzo Monti, Harford County; Marion . Salvagno, Charles County; Barbara Schwartz, Anne Arundel County; and Barbara Slater, Towson State University. Others who assisted the committee in the early stages of this project were Tom Craney of Frederick County, Phil Langsdorf of Cecil County, and Don Pumroy of the University of Maryland.

    The next group which deserves thanks is the Survey respondents. Answering our questionnaire took a considerable amount of thought and time. Our appreciation goes to Robert Bush, Virginia Dolan, and Barbara Schwartz from Anne Arundel County; Mike Oidick of Baltimore City; Jan Banta, Ellen Durrett, and Ellen La Martina, who assisted Janet Pitt with the questionnaire in Baltimore County; and Neil Feehley of Baltimore County; Jim Burd of Caroline County; Joyce Simmons of Calvert County; Mark Resnick of Carroll County; Phil Langsdorf of Cecil County; the joint efforts of Patricia Norwood and Sharon Woodman of Charles County; and Marion Salvagno of Charles County; Tom Craney of Frederick County; Phil Lauver of Garrett County; Deidra Lauck and Enzo Monti of Harford County; Liz Middleton of Howard County; Richard Greenbaum of the Mid-Shore Special Education Cosortium; Bruce Johns of Montgomery County; Heather Albrecht and Jean Phillips of Prince George's County; Patricia Buckner-Thompson of Queen Anne's County; and Lynnette Whitt of Washington County. Thank you.

    The MSP A Executive Board has heartily supported us throughout this project, although at times bemoaning our perfectionist tendencies, our occasional need for "down" time, and our concern about our jobs. For their faith we thank Sabino Strippoli, Judi Bluefeld Amick, Jim Burd, Diane Jayson, and Wally Siggers.

    Special gratitude is due those individuals who took the time to critique our various _ drafts. For their germaine and incisive comments we particularly thank Jim Burd,. Neil _: ..

    . --Feehley, Diane Jayson, Penny Peterson, Barbara Schwartz, Nick Silvestri, and Sabino ' -- - ..- ~ -:, --~~ .--:rr-- StrippolL ~pecial il)~I}ks_ als

  • 1

    I. Eligibility

    The SED educational definition consists of three major components: a) SED as an emotional condition; b) SED as a set of three limiting criteria, all of which must be met prior to classification; and c) SED as a set of five characteristics, one of which must be met prior to classification. Each component of the definition requires careful consideration before making the differential diagnosis of SED .

    . A. SED as an Emotional Condition "This term means a condition exhibiting one or more characteristics...;" thus, for any

    child to be considered for SED classification, there must be a serious emotional condition . from which debilitating behavioral and/or psychological characteristics stem. An

    emotional condition is one which is manifested by a syndrome or pattern of disturbed symptoms. Isolated behaviors or expressions of emotionality per se do not constitute a serious emotional disturbance. While many handicapped children may exhibit one or more of the characteristics outlined in the educational definition of SED, this does not automatically define them as seriously emotionally disturbed.

    B. SED as a Set of Three Limiting Criteria PL 94-142 states that the characteristics of seriously emotionally disturbed children

    must be exhibited " ...over a long pedod of time and to a marked degree, which adversely affects educational performance."

    1. The phrase "over a long pe


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